Rafael Nadal has been honoured with a three-metre tall statue at Roland Garros, however the sculpture has divided the tennis world.
French Open officials unveiled the statue of the 13-time champion on Thursday ahead of the start of the clay-court grand slam on Sunday.
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Nadal attended the unveiling on Thursday alongside French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton, Tournament Director Guy Forget and the sculptor Jordi Diez Fernandez.
The statue is made of steel and stands three metres tall, nearly five metres wide and two metres deep.
While thankful for the gesture, the humble Nadal seemed a bit embarrassed by the very public recognition.
"It's true that what I accomplished in Paris, even if I don't like to say it, it's something very, very special," he said.
"I am grateful and I understand the gesture: I accomplished something that was very difficult to imagine."
Social media erupted as photos of Nadal and the statue were posted online.
Dozens of fans praised the sculptor's work, but as with every statue of a global figure, some were not impressed.
It’s absolutely frightening. Rafa deserves better.
— michael epps (@michael_epps) May 27, 2021
I like the overall figure of Rafa, my only criticism is the face it doesn't, imo look like our handsome King.
However it's a great tribute to a truly tremendous champion on and off the court. It's well deserved.
— Kathleen Mellor (@KathleenMellor6) May 27, 2021
Quite a strange sculpture! Imo, not representive at all. Rafa's funny smile says everything "Not too bad, but acceptable"😉
— Michael M Popovic (@MicPop8) May 27, 2021
The real Rafa ALWAYS looks good, who is the statue, that’s not a likeness to Rafa’s beautiful face at all 😕
— Kim (@wilde4ways) May 27, 2021
I love it -- I get that it's not a standard "bust~statue" and some folks feel it's too avant garde -- but yeah, totally cool.
Rafa as the Terminator on Clay.
— Dr. Joe (@NoLogoJoe) May 27, 2021
I can’t believe they made a statue of delpo and told rafa it was him 🥴🥴🥴
— . (@sillycarlnguyen) May 27, 2021
The face looks nothing like him but great action statue
— what's the craic? (@whatsthecraic1) May 27, 2021
Nadal on same side of draw as Federer and Djokovic
Meanwhile, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have all been placed on the same side of the French Open draw for the first time at a major.
Having slipped to No.3 in the world, it was always likely that Nadal would face top-ranked Djokovic before the final.
The two great rivals could now meet in the semi-finals this year.
Tournament director Forget admitted that the idea of bumping up Nadal to the second seeding instead of Daniil Medvedev, who has never won a match in Paris, had crossed their minds.
At Wimbledon, a player's grass court form and record are taken into consideration when seedings are decided.
"Clay today is a real specialist surface but we decided to follow the ATP rankings," said Forget.
"Medvedev didn't steal his ranking; he has earned it.
"It may seem unbalanced on paper, but if Rafa wants to win a 14th title here, he's going to have to beat Novak. Whether he beats him in the final or in the semi-finals...."
"Besides, it would be an insult to Medvedev to tell him that he is seeded out of place."
Djokovic has lost three finals to Nadal at the French Open in 2012, 2014 and then last year - when the Spaniard swept to victory, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
Djokovic, the 2016 champion, is top seed and could possibly face 2009 winner Federer in the quarter-finals.
Nadal and Federer (seeded eighth) are locked on 20 grand slams each while Djokovic, who has 18, can become the first man in over half a century to win all four majors on more than one occasion.
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